NEXT week Michael Jarrett will spare a thought for mates he served with in the Royal Australian Navy who have since died.
They all wore the same uniform and are indigenous men and next week's NAIDOC Week celebrations will have the theme Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond, honouring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of their country.
Mr Jarrett from Alstonville served in the Royal Australian Navy for 12 years from 1965 and was on board HMAS Sydney during the Vietnam War.
The 66-year-old Gumbaynggir man who grew up in the Lower Clarence said he only knew of about 10 indigenous men in the navy in his time, and most have since died.
He said he was pleased this NAIDOC Week provided an opportunity to remember all the indigenous men and women who served our country.
"It's routinely forgotten that there were countless numbers (of indigenous people) who volunteered in the Second World War," Mr Jarrett said.
"It's a good idea to stop and think of Aboriginal people who served."
Mr Jarrett said he was proud of his service - and that he played halfback for the navy and the combined services teams.
After the navy he was a marine surveyor in Sydney.
He had worked on trawlers in Ballina before enlisting in the navy.
NAIDOC Week celebrations in Ballina begin on Sunday with the opening of the NAIDOC Week art exhibition at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery from 1-3pm.
Aunty Nancy Walk will speak at the launch and there will be a performance by local young Aboriginal men. The exhibition runs until July 13.
On Monday the annual celebration walk along River St from the Ballina RSL Club car park to the Ballina Visitor Information Centre will start at 11.30am.